A shortage of engineers threatens to make America "technologically paralyzed" unless more students start excelling in math and science, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Friday.

"There is a shortage of science and engineering graduates in America," Hatch said before the opening of National Engineers Week, which runs Feb. 19 to 25. Hatch is the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees education. He has been especially concerned about American students' performance in math and science.He said the number of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in 1996 is projected to fall short of demand by 45,000. By the year 2010, the shortfall is projected to be 700,000 - unless more students enter the field.

"Engineers are the people who turn ideas into reality, from the space shuttle to everyday conveniences. Do we really want to begin a new century without enough engineers?"

Hatch quoted Mark Spencer, assistant commissioner of academic affairs of the Utah system of higher education, saying 100 percent of Utah's engineering graduates find employment. And the number of graduates needs to increase by at least 10 percent to fill the jobs available.

"In Utah there are currently 3,400 students enrolled in the state's two engineering programs at the University of Utah and Utah State University. Utah State's engineering graduates have the highest starting salaries of any graduates receiving bachelor's degrees from the school," Hatch said.

About National Engineers Week, Hatch said, "Let us take this time to celebrate and recognize the wonders engineering has provided us and use it as an opportunity to encourage more students to prepare themselves for an engineering career."